By Michael Massaquoi.
Since returning to Sierra Leone from the UK a few years back, I have been closely following the political trend in this country, particularly during transition period. Of course, I have only witnessed the current period of transition arrangement from APC government to SLPP as events continue to unfold in an attempt by President Bio’s administration to clean up the political landscape for his new team. The formation of a new administration or rather a replacement of the old guards following the last elections appeared to have been a painstaking task for both President Bio and those who have been axed.
As the saying goes ‘old habits die hard’ such notion may have precipitated the action or actions of the former President and his successor to sack and replace those they don’t trust or perhaps, who they think may not work in their interest.
There are countless names of those who were ‘’relieved of their positions’’ by the outgone administration during the hay day of the APC government much to the dismay of many who thought some of them should have been appraised on their performance rather than on tribal or political party line, as the overwhelming conviction was that many of them who were booted out of office was as a result of their perceived disloyalty to the incoming government. What is happening right now is much of the same as heads continue to roll that comes in most cases with punitive measures for alleged misappropriation of funds.
In all of this, the hammer tends to fall heavily on former big wigs in government departments, parastatals etc who have enjoyed the spoils over the last ten years. Some of them are big financiers to the outgone APC party while others were die-hard party loyalist and supporters. Some occupied key and fat positions that came with astronomical pay packages and other freebies. Their appointments were purely political graced by the former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.
The expectation of them was to ensure the government they served remains in power in order to secure their interest. These fat cat positions are not contestable as they are offered directly by the President in return for their loyalty no matter how rough the weather becomes. They will mention the President after God in their Sunday prayers, and thereby making him a Demi-God in their efforts to satisfy their ever-increasing cravings for wealth and power. Knowing fully that they have the President’s backing, some will go to the extent toannihilatetheir peers or key members of their communities if they sense they are trouble makers.
The power that comes with such appointments is unimaginable- as they get closer to the seat of power arrogance kicks in; they are seen as the protected species of the president. Power and money with utter disregard for law and order become part of their DNA. They treat the public with disdain with brashness and colourful lifestyle. Until the grain goes against them as in the recent case when APC lost power, many realized that no one is immortal. Today, many of them are facing the wrath of the reality of life-some of them are still banged up in cells; their movements restricted, family names in disrepute and are completely stripped off of the respect they used to command. What’s more, several had to run away leaving behind their once protected credibility in tatters. Their sins, some people say is simple: they were once a party to the former government, and are suspects for allegedly pilfering the nations’ till. To the ordinary man, these people are ‘THIEVES’ and they should be punished.
Such is the pattern of politics in Sierra Leone. With President Bio’s SLPP in power, he has succeeded in compensating his loyalists with some bagging fat cat positions. It is no difference from the actions of the former government. The people the President has appointed so far are considered to be his loyal friends for they have been there for him thin and thick. Just a few months in office, President Bio has almost completed appointing his trusted friends to key positions except for the various Attaché positions within the diplomatic circle. Meanwhile, the appointees including some of the Cabinet Ministers have been seen quite dummy in expressing their delight over their appointment unlike those of the former government. Many are aware of the price that comes with such appointment if their emotions dwarf what is expected of them.
And while it is important to say that the country is at its cooling point with respect to the attitudes of public servants as a result of the current stringent measures, one can equally say that apolitical appointment is a curse and not a blessing. A curse because all appointees will have to give account of their stewardship as dictated by the condition of a political transition whether it falls in their favour or not. Worst still, it is not about whether your fingers are clean after leaving office these days, but your mere affiliation with a former government, particularly when you used to occupy a high office you are bound to be haunted by malice, grudge, and subsequent prosecution. So where is the joy in all this?